36 questions to fall in love with Sammy Virji

The UK garage champion talks teleporting, wasps, and why he’s already living out his dreams

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The UK garage champion talks teleporting, wasps, and why he’s already living out his dreams

By Felicity Martin01 May 2024
13 mins read time
13 mins read time

In 1997, psychology professor Arthur Aron led a study that set out to find whether intimacy between two strangers could be accelerated if they asked each other a series of 36 specific, personal questions. The idea was that if two people are vulnerable and share their unguarded, candid thoughts with each other, it’d bring them closer together. In one case, two participants of the study married just six months after. So, considering that there’s something special about this set of questions, we put every single one (well, actually, not all – a few were a tad too personal) to Sammy Virji.

If you’ve watched Sammy Virji’s DJ Mag stream you’ll know how much feel good energy his music can inject. Across the hour-long slot, he dips between bassline and UKG, reggae and old school house, with a megawatt smile across his face, a rush of endorphins that visibly ripples through the crowd. Obviously, it went viral on TikTok. “Bro’s having the absolute time of his life,” one of the thousands of comments praising the set reads.

Virji’s scored a bit of a reputation as ‘that DJ who’s always smiling’, and that attitude is reflected in his production style, which has continually buoyed up the UK garage and bass music scene. You’ll recognise his ‘Daga Da’ from the Strongbow Ultra advert, his ‘Shella Verse’ with Flowdan from being omnipresent online, and countless others from being fixtures in your favourite DJ’s sets. When you hear his “it’s Virji, isn’t it?” tag you know you’re in for a good time, essentially. While ‘Summertime Blues’, his recent collaboration with Chris Lake and Nathan Nicholson, showcases a mellower side to his sound, it still has that unmistakable Sammy bounce.

Since learning to produce aged 12 on his dad’s computer, Virji has risen to becoming one of the DJs and producers helping bring UKG to new global audiences. We got on a call with the musician, while he was at a pub in East London, to find out about his phobias, biggest successes, and his most embarrassing memory.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?

Jesus… Can I say Jesus? See what he’s like, see what he’s saying.

Would you like to be mega famous?

Definitely not. I’d hate to not be able to walk to the shops. It looks nice from the outside but I reckon if you’re famous famous it could be quite an impairment. Not being able to have a private life, and everyone knowing about everything you do… it’d be pretty horrible. There’s a first for everything, and being famous, you might be rich and get certain advantages, but yeah, I think that’d be a pretty horrible thing.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Yes. I do, all the time, because I’m really awkward so I practice in front of the mirror 10 times and still mess it up. No, not quite, but I do rehearse it sometimes, depending on how important it is. If I’ve got an important business call I’ll try my best to rehearse it.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Getting a nice big breakfast with avocado and beans. Playing some football in the morning, getting some nice exercise in, then going for some mimosas. Then going to a festival gig, I reckon, with all my mates.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Probably a couple days ago, maybe today! I like to have a little sing when no one’s there. When I produce I’ll sing to myself ‘cos I’ll hum melodies and stuff.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

100% mind. If you've got the body of a 30-year-old and all your mates around you are ageing and you're not, and then you get to 80 years-old, and your wife, best mates, they're all old... Yeah, no. Go through life with your family and your mates ageing at the same time. If you're able to keep your mind and retain your important memories, that's more valuable than anything. I actually think about these sorts of questions in depth, all of the time!

Do you have any phobias?

Yeah, wasps. I hate ‘em so much, I really do. I turn into a different person when they're around. I'll run away from the table.

Did you have a traumatic experience with a wasp?

Yeah, well it was actually a hornet. When I was six, I ran through a hornet's nest, and one crept up my shirt and stung me. I remember it being the most painful thing, searing pain.

Name three things you and your partner or best friend have in common.

Bad at making decisions, sensitive and love animals – that's my partner.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Probably being able to do what I love and what I've been obsessed with since I was a kid, being able to do that and have other people appreciate and love what I make and do. I think that's the best thing in the world. But other than that – ‘cos that's kind of a basic answer – having really good friends around me and two loving parents, I think. Very grateful for that.

Take four minutes to tell me your life story in as much detail as possible.

I was born in London, and moved to Oxford when I was a little bit older. I played lots of instruments, ‘cos my dad's a musician. Then I became obsessed with making music – making my own music rather than playing other people's music is something that I've always been obsessed with doing. I used to go to my dad's house and produce on his computer. And then one day he gave me it for my birthday, his computer, and then I'd just do it all the time. I went to uni in Newcastle and studied biology. I think the plan was – well, what my mum and dad wanted me to do was be a doctor and study medicine, but I didn't really want to do that. I was secretly obsessive about making music. I started to get noticed for my productions and then I would get booked for DJ sets and stuff. Then in third year, I got to the point where I calculated that I could technically make a living off of bookings. So I ended up dropping out in third year, went into music and it's gone well since then.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

The ability to sleep whenever I want. ‘Cos I struggle... I'll stay up for hours, and I can't sleep on transport. Maybe that or unlimited stamina. Is this like a superpower?

Sure, a superpower.

Then maybe the power to teleport. I have, once again, thought about this at length. But if you could teleport, I reckon you would get really lazy. Let's say you were lying on the sofa, watching TV and you wanted to get a drink from the fridge, you would teleport to the fridge and back to the sofa and you'd end up not using your legs nearly as much, and you’d just get really fat. So I think there needs to be rules set in place for teleportation.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

My ancestors – where they're from and what they did, back several hundreds or thousands of years ago. On my dad's side, they were in Africa for a bit, but they're Indian, so they're Indian and they moved to Africa and that's where my dad's side of the family is from. I would like to know more about their heritage.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

This [doing music] is what I've dreamed of doing for a long time, and I hadn’t done it until recently! I tell you what, I'd love to watch England win the World Cup or Arsenal win the Champions League. And why haven't I done it?! It’s a bit out of my hands.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Other than being able to do what I love, I think doing the American tour recently, being able to sell that out completely on my first run was a real compliment. 'Cos I'd never been to America, and having people out there that are fans is pretty cool. Any fans is cool, but being able to have a sold-out tour was eye opening.

Do you find US crowds different to UK ones?

Definitely, you can't go raving until you're 21 there. So those three years do make a massive difference, I think they're a lot more mature in some ways, which I think is a good thing. There's good things about UK crowds as well that you maybe don't get in America, but I really, really enjoyed it. I was surprised at how keen they were for a genre that they're not really accustomed to.

What do you value most in a friendship?

Someone that's gentle. And someone that you can really have a laugh with, but you can have a deep chat with as well.

What is your most treasured memory?

My dad coming on stage at my London tour date – I made a tune [‘5 Star’] with my dad, and he came on stage behind the decks, and we vibed to our collab. That was nice, I'll remember that for ages.

If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

If I was gonna die in a year, I'd probably do a lot less shows. I'd pick a few to do, 'cos I do love it, it's my favourite thing to do. But it does mean that I don't get to see my friends and family and my girlfriend nearly as much, so if I had a year to live, I’d go and spend it with them.

What does friendship mean to you?

You can share the most about yourself with your friends. I do think in some ways they can be the most important relationships. So make sure you’ve got good friends around you – which I do, I've got really good friends.

Can you share five positive characteristics of your best friend?

Sensitive, driven, funny, gentle, good dress sense.

How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

I love my mum, and I can go to her for anything.

I'm going to start a sentence, and you can end it. “I am feeling…”

…excited for the future.

Complete this sentence: “Doing interviews is ..."

…scary, ‘cos I can be a bit awkward sometimes!

If you were going to become a close friend with someone, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

I value my personal time on my own. I don't always want to be around people all the time, and sometimes I like to just take myself off and listen to tunes on my own.

Say something very honest about yourself that you might not say to someone you've just met.

I’d say most things – I’m quite open, so there’s not a lot I wouldn’t say to someone.

Share an embarrassing moment in your life.

This is my most embarrassing moment – it was when I was 10 or something, but it was so embarrassing! My friend's sister was having a sleepover, and I was invited by my friend. I was meant to be staying in the spare room but ended up sleeping in his room ‘cos his sister's friend was staying in the spare room, but I didn't know that. In the morning I sat on the bed I was meant to be in, stripped butt naked and got changed. I felt a lump on the bed and it was his sister's friend, staring wide-eyed at me. I ran out the door, being like 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry!' I scrambled, tried to pull my pants up and on the way out my pants got caught on the handle of the door and tugged me back. Bear in mind his sister's two years older, I was trying to impress the older kids.

Brutal. How long did it take you to get over that?

The friend tried to bring it up three years later and I shut her down straight away: ‘We don’t speak about that!’ And we’ve never spoken about it since.

When did you last cry in front of another person?

In January, I cried in front of my partner because of some post-success anxiety, which is a thing, I think. Things were going really well but I was getting quite anxious from being in the spotlight so much. I'd just been touring a lot and it was just before I had to go to Japan, and Japan is another really intense run. It was also before moving house, and it boiled over a little bit. But that's just something that happens with being an artist, you tend to overthink things and worry about your position. One of the downsides of the job, but all artists go through it. Good thing is we've all got each other.

How do you self-soothe?

I tend to just not do anything and watch TV. Have a shower as a nice reset. Just relax, don’t do anything.

What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

My DJing ability (laughs).

If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

Nothing, there isn’t anything!

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

I would easily save my laptop, because it’s got all my music on there and I don’t back up anything either, which I should!

Who do you go to when you want advice and what’s the best advice they’ve ever given you?

It depends on what I want advice on, but my partner or my mum or my dad.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

Be yourself. Recently I was worried about a set that I had to do, maybe felt like I had to cater for a certain crowd, and this person I asked advice from said, ‘Just do your thing, be yourself’, and I did it, it was the right thing. So I think in every situation being yourself is the right thing to do.